Dell EMC Unity vs. Pure Storage

All-flash or hybrid — which is best for you?

The enterprise storage market is growing year by year. As a consequence, it’s become increasingly important for companies to get their hands on an enterprise storage solution.

There are many options out there, but this article will compare two of the biggest: Dell EMC Unity vs. Pure Storage. While both products offer enterprise storage, there are some critical differences between the two. Primarily, Dell EMC Unity delivers both all-flash and hybrid arrays, whereas Pure Storage only provides all-flash arrays.

We’ll look at more of the differences and similarities in detail as we proceed through this piece. If you’re in the market for a new enterprise storage solution, then this should help you!

Dell EMC Unity: Trusted Heritage and Options

To start, let’s take a look at Dell EMC Unity the flagship product in Dell’s unified storage offering. As a company, Dell has been part of the tech industry for decades and is a well-recognised name throughout the world. They bought out EMC for a massive $67 billion back in 2015, which formed the company known as Dell EMC.

Both EMC and Dell had existing lines of enterprise storage products, but Unity is the first offering that’s considered a genuinely unified storage array pulling NAS and SAN components into a single system. It’s incredibly easy to use, and it builds upon everything that’s great about Dell as a company. Their experience in this industry is not to be overlooked as it’s led to a product that people can trust.

As a product, Unity is designed to deliver all-flash and hybrid arrays that work exceptionally well within the Dell ecosystem. They’re easy to control with the Unisphere management software solutions, which are incredibly flexible. You can also use natively supported REST API plugins to further control things. It was released back in 2016 and can be easily integrated into existing infrastructure, making it a trendy choice for many companies.

Pure Storage: Powerful All-Flash

Pure Storage is widely regarded as the market leader in all-flash arrays. This product is also one of the most expensive out there and doesn’t deliver a hybrid option. The focus is purely on all-flash, and they’ve become experts in this domain.

Pure Storage is one of the fastest and most powerful enterprise storage solutions on the market. The Purity operating system offers a very intuitive experience and contemporary design. This makes it very easy to use, even for beginners.

The company was founded in 2009, and they’ve worked hard to become the biggest name in the all-flash array world. There is a variety of all-flash arrays on offer from Pure Storage. Each is regarded by many as delivering the best performance available in the market for its class.

Of course, the downside for the power offered by Pure Storage is the price tag. Getting a quality enterprise storage system is never a cheap undertaking. However, Pure Storage is not a budget option — it delivers power for users who need it.

Dell EMC Unity vs. Pure Storage

The most obvious difference between the storage solutions offered by Pure Storage and Dell EMC Unity is that Pure Storage only delivers all-flash. For companies only interested in all-flash, this is irrelevant. But, it is an indication of the different attitudes both companies take.

Dell EMC Unity is truly a mid-market player — offering flexible options to the widest possible range of customers. Pure Storage focuses on power users who need quick access to high quantities of storage material. This also shines through in the data reduction capabilities, delivering 10:1 total efficiency, with absolutely no consequence to performance.     

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Is all-flash right for you?

Flash is relatively small and uses far less power than a typical HDD — making it easier and more cost-effective to maintain. You also get the benefit of a lower carbon footprint. Modern data centres are becoming ever more reliant on flash.

In addition, Pure Storage offers performance stats that are almost impossible for anyone to beat. In fact, their hardware is so fast that they built in a 50% utilisation cap for the utilisation of CPU and memory resource during operations. This is to guarantee 100% availability during planned and unplanned outages of arrays within your storage environment.

During processing spikes, arrays will be able to access their full capacity. But, this design redundancy both makes upgrades and maintenance far simpler and delivers a degree of inherent disaster recovery protection — allowing you to rest easier that your system will continue to work even when faults arise.    

Tires vs. all-flash, all the time

All-flash hardware benefits from being in an all-flash environment. When all of the storage hardware operates at similar capabilities, it can be treated as a single pool or resources. If you want the best outcome money can buy, all-flash, all of the time is the way to go.

If you have a hybrid environment, you need ‘tiering’ solutions. These allow your software control system to make judgments on how data is used (often related to how recently it was accessed), storing ‘hot’ information on faster flash while keeping older data on HDD.

Dell EMC Unity delivers such a tiering solution — a technology that Dell has a long history of developing. This allows Dell EMC Unity hybrid arrays, and all-flash arrays operating in a hybrid environment to maximise their efficiency. However, it does introduce an additional process into the system — contributing to the reason your Dell EMC Unity array will not be able to stand toe to toe with a Pure Storage environment if every millisecond matters.  

Dell EMC Unity vs. Pure Storage: What About Software Control Systems?

Another positive aspect of Pure Storage is the software engine built into all of their all-flash arrays: Purity. It’s created to work alongside all Pure Storage hardware, which means you have a very reliable system that is easy to use and delivers industry-leading compression and deduplication capabilities. It then deploys REST API plugins to help integrate with third-party hardware solutions.

Dell EMC Unity also relies on REST APIs for integration with third-party hardware, offering native support that is beneficial to anyone already using a REST API system to manage storage environments made up of many different pieces.

There is Unisphere, the Dell family storage management control system. For Dell only environments, this delivers a clean and intuitive interface that is easy to use and works out of the box.

From a functional standpoint, both Unisphere and Purity offer similar simplicity. But, you will get better data efficiency out of Purity. Both systems integrate with REST APIs. However, if you run your entire system using a bespoke REST API interface, you might get better support from Dell and Unity.     

Summary: Which Enterprise Storage Product Should You Choose?

Both products are fundamentally good at what they do. If you want an all-flash solution and have the workloads required to really see the benefit, then Pure Storage is the most powerful solution you can buy.  

But, when it comes to the drawbacks, we can’t avoid the elephant in the room; the cost. It’s no secret that Pure Storage all-flash arrays are expensive. But, they are spending a lot of money on things like advanced compression technology and deduplication to lower these costs. However, it is not a budget solution.

The big question you need to ask is if all-flash is really worth the cost. A lot of businesses can get perfectly suitable outcomes keeping only 10% of their data on flash. If you want to build a hybrid environment, Dell delivers those options where Pure Storage does not. The big selling point of Dell EMC unity in this comparison is the ability to deliver flexibility and impressive performance stats at much lower cost.

Both solutions work out of the box, can integrate with third-party hardware using REST APIs and provide cloud integrations and virtualisation capabilities. In the end, you have to look at your company and assess what will benefit you the most — an all-flash environment, or hybrid solutions.  

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Rob Townsend

Rob Townsend

Rob is a co-founder at Nexstor and has dedicated his career to helping a range of organisations from SME to Enterprise to get ahead of the game when it comes to their compute, storage and data needs.

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